Four days of bullpens isn’t nearly enough to make a real impression. Joe Girardi has said he’s happy with the way Phil Hughes is pitching, and he’s comfortable konwing what to expect from Freddy Garcia, and he’s been impressed by new additions Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda. Today he agreed with the premise that Ivan Nova is not fighting for a job, that he has one locked up.
But choosing five starters is the biggest decision facing the Yankees this spring, so you can expect to hear a lot about it in the next few weeks.
“I think your first responsibility is putting out what you feel the five best starters are,” Giradi said. “Then you go from there.”
The Yankees know that Hughes can pitch out of the bullpen because they’ve seen him do it, but Girardi indicated that Hughes relief experience is not necessarily a motivating factor. If Hughes ends up back in the pen, it will be because the Yankees feel he’s not one of their five best starters, not because the Yankees believe he is one of their seven best relievers.
It was Sweeny Murti who pointed out today that Hughes has been in camp with Girardi five straight years — only two other pitchers can say that — but his role is still not clearly defined.
“I think it got a little sidetracked in ’08 because he got hurt,” Girardi said. “In ’09 it got sidetracked because we threw him in the bullpen; a guy who started out as a long guy, and then a sixth-inning guy, and then seventh, and he kind of blew us away with what he did. That threw a little confusion into the pot. Then he comes out and wins 18 games in 2010, and you say, well, he’s a starter. Then he has 2011. So, yeah, it’s a little strange, five years in camp and his role is not clearly defined.”
• Here’s Girardi’s response when asked whether it helps Nova to know he doesn’t have to fight for a rotation spot this year: “That’s one thing he doesn’t have to worry about, but it’s still not easy,” Girardi said. “I was really pleased when I saw him in camp the first day, where he was at. It was clear to me that he worked very hard this offseason to try to improve what he did last season, and that’s outstanding. But I think there’s that knowledge. He knows he can compete at this level, and I think that’s one thing young players go through. Can I really do it here? That shouldn’t be a question in his mind if he makes his pitches.”
• Too early to know who’s going to start the first few spring games. “It’s how the guys feel, a little bit, as we move forward,” Girardi said. “I’ll listen to what Larry (Rothschild) says about who’s ready. Traditionally, guys get about six starts, maybe seven. We have a few more games, than what we need, if they’re all going to get six starts.”
• Safe to say Hughes and Garcia are the starters most likely to pitch on the same schedule, keeping them lined up for the fifth spot? “Not necessarily,” Girardi said. “We’ll keep the guys on a five-man rotation, and sometimes they’ll have to piggyback each other. But we do have some split doubleheaders, which helps.”
• With Eric Chavez in the clubhouse — though technically not yet signed — Girardi freely acknowledged that Chavez will be back next season, and indicated that Chavez (and not Nick Swisher) will be the primary backup at first base. “I could do it either way,” Giradi said. “I’m going to run (Chavez) out there at first this spring, just like we did last year. I like trying to keep Swish in one spot. The one year that Swish moved around a little bit, could have been ’09, I thought his defense improved in right field when we kept him out there.”
• After today’s workout, Mariano Rivera was in the seats behind home plate doing a photo shoot for some unknown magazine. The man dresses just about as well as he pitches.
• Speaking of Rivera: Apparently Mark Teixeira doesn’t believe the Yankees closer is really going to retire at the end of this season. “I really think he has at least a few seasons left in him,” Teixeira said at an event for a company he’s apparently invested in.
• One more link for this afternoon. Head over to the New York Times for an entertaining read about one man’s one-time attempt to be a mascot at Yankee Stadium. It’s a pretty funny story.
• Derek Jeter’s preseason press conference will be tomorrow morning. Alex Rodriguez’s will be after Saturday’s first full-squad workout.
Associated Press photos